I found this bit of theatrical history while searching for information about our town that had been posted by people who couldn't spell Penn Yan! "The Pie Rats of Penn Yann", also called "The Pirates of Penn Yann" was a spoof of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance". Reportedly written by Charles E. Pratt, It opened late in 1879 at Tony Pastor's famous Burlesque theatre on Broadway. It ran as late as 1881.

None other than Lillian Russell got her big break staring in The Pie Rats of Penn Yann! Here is an excerpt from an article "GILBERTIAN GOSSIP", No. 43, 1995. (Note - this page is available as a Word Document HERE.)

"Lillian Russell (Nellie to her friends), was born at Clinton, Iowa, on 4 December 1861. She appeared in the chorus of one of the pirated productions of H.M.S. Pinafore. Next, she joined the management of Tony Pastor who mounted a burlesque of The Pirates of Penzance, entitled The Pie Rats of Penn Yann."

"(Arthur) Sullivan and D'Oyly Carte who were in New York, went to see it and were captivated by Lillian as Mabel. They approached her to appear in the official version on tour, and she gleefully refused, allegedly because 6 months earlier she had haunted D'Oyly Carte's hotel in New York, hoping for work, and he had refused to see her."

May Erwin and her sister Flora, both actresses in burlesques,
musical revues and straight plays on Broadway
also appeared in The Pirates of Penn Yan.
Miss Lillian Russell                    Miss May Irwin    

The following information on the play is from the book
"Tony Pastor, father of vaudeville" By Armond Fields.
(Note that Fields used the spelling "Penn Yan")


  "Lillian Russell"  
Click, then scroll down to "An American Beauty"
Two excerpts from this page:

"On November 22, 1880, "Lillian Russell" made her debut at Tony Pastor's Theatre in New York City. Within weeks, the beautiful blonde added a prominent role in The Pie-Rats of Penn Yann to her stage credits. This spirited travesty of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance made Lillian Russell an instant star. For the next thirty-five years, Russell maintained her position as one of the first ladies of American musical theater."

"Hearing her sing in The Pie-Rats of Penn Yann, Sir Arthur Sullivan pressured Russell to leave Tony Pastor's for an equivalent role in the legitimate production. She refused to break her contract with Pastor."

May Irwin was one of the "most well-loved comediennes of her time".
Miss Irwin also starred in the Pie Rats of Penn Yan, along with her sister, Flora.
  "May Erwin"  

A playbill is in the University of Rochester collection,
"Department of Rare Books and Special Collections"
Scroll to the bottom of their page, then click the playbill for a larger image.
  "1881 playbill"